Friday, April 25, 2014

Our IVF Story

I decided since my first Mother's Day is coming this weekend I would post about how we got here.

Our journey towards having a baby was not easy. In fact it was almost as trying as when Jason was injured.

When we got to San Diego Jason's nurse practitioner (whom we adored; she was brutally honest and took no bull. I loved it.) suggested that among all the other services Jason needed, he should get a sperm count. She had seen in injured soldiers that sometimes blast injuries effect their count and so we made an appointment. We figured Jason was fine. He was young and healthy and only lost his legs.

We were really wrong.

In October 2012 we received the diagnosis of male factor infertility. Jason's count was so low that there was no possibility of conceiving a child naturally. In fact, we not only would need in vitro fertilization (IVF) but we would also need intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and the doctor even said that we should have donor sperm as a back up. For those that don't know what IVF and ICSI are, IVF is when they remove eggs from the woman and mix them with sperm in a laboratory. They wait three to five days to see if they fertilize and then inject one to two eggs back into the woman. ICSI takes the process one step further. Instead of just mixing sperm with the egg, they take a single sperm and manually inject it into the egg for fertilization, then put the egg back into the woman.

Before we jumped into starting IVF, the doctor at the hospital wanted to do a few more sperm counts spaced two months apart to see if maybe Jason was still healing from his injuries. After all, this was only five months after his injury. But once this one year alive day rolled around, we found that his numbers did not improve at all and that IVF with ICSI was still our only option.

The doctors also could not figure out what was causing Jason's infertility. Jason had no trauma to his genitals and all the doctors could come up with was that when he was injured his body "rebooted" like a computer and that his body was sending an abundance of hormones to make sperm but the message was getting lost somehow. It wasn't until we got to Ohio that I think we may have found the real reason. While at Walter Reed Jason received many x-rays on his pelvis, none of which I remember them covering his genitals with a lead apron. At the time these x-rays were needed to diagnose and save his life, so I understand why they had to do them. But the exposure to the x-rays can cause infertility and I believe that's why it happened to Jason.

Right about that time we knew we were moving to Ohio so we decided to wait until we got there to start the IVF process. It took a little time but in October 2013 we finally saw the reproductive specialist at the Wright Patterson AFB hospital. At the hospital they don't do IVF so we had to go to a civilian clinic, which was a wonderful experience. They took amazing care of us. They decided to do another sperm count, and miraculously Jason's count had gone up to the minimum level that we could try an intrauterine insemination (IUI). An IUI is basically artificial insemination where they inject the sperm directly into the uterus. His numbers were still low but we were so hopeful and decided to try an IUI at the beginning of December.

Now, I have two fears: insects and needles. I hate, hate, hate shots. In order to do the IUI you have to be on a wonderful (insert sarcasm) pill called Clomid for five days which turns you into a crazy witch and then you have to do what's called a "trigger shot" which is an injection into your stomach. When the night came for my shot Jason and I sat on our bed for what seemed like forever. I was pinching my stomach fat and shakily holding the needle. I'd change my mind and hand it to Jason, only to tell him no and that I'll do it. I finally decided I needed to be alone and do it so I went into the bathroom and after a prayer I did it. And it wasn't bad at all. I felt so stupid for getting so worked up I cried, then I felt foolish for crying. Ah, the wonderfulness of hormones. Two days later I got the IUI and then started the two week wait. We would find out after Christmas if it worked.

Unfortunately on Christmas Eve I got my monthly visit. Our IUI did not work. Our option was to keep trying IUIs or go straight to IVF. The failed IUI devastated me. To say I was depressed was an understatement. We were told we would most likely have more success with IVF and to spare even more heartache, we opted to try IVF next.

At the end of January 2014 we started the process of IVF. And guess what? There's LOTS more injections! In February we hit a major roadblock. They discovered a cyst on one of my ovaries that most likely was caused by the Clomid I took for the IUI. They couldn't proceed with the rest of IVF until the cyst was gone, and it wasn't going away on its own. They decided to aspirate with a needle guided ultrasound, a procedure in which I would be awake for. I got to take a fentanyl lollipop, which was enjoyable (I had to take it in the waiting room where The Price Is Right was on. The medication made it fun to play along) and made me care less that a needle was about to pierce my vaginal walls. The procedure did not hurt and was over quickly although I clutched for the nurses hand because I was so terrified and made the doctor do a 1 2 3 before the jab. The next day I started the rest of my stimulation medicine to move on to the next step: egg harvesting.

Many ultrasounds later confirmed that I was eventually ready to have my egg harvested. Unlike the cyst procedure, I would actually be put under. I was excited and nervous. 

You don't really know how many eggs they'll get and even so, the number of eggs don't really matter. Yet you still want some. After it was done and Jason came back to see me, I jittered from the anesthesia and kept asking "How many? How many?" The answer was 17! 

They do the ICSI part next and we wait five days to see how many of the eggs divide into cells. Every day we would get a report, anxious to hear if they were dividing. By day five, it went from 17 eggs to five. Not all eggs divide enough times or are viable enough to be considered for in vitro. It was a little sad I admit but oh we were so grateful for those five!

Because of my age and health, they thought implanting one embryo would be good. Of course the more you put in the greater chance of multiple babies which is not the goal of IVF. Jason was in Texas hand cycling the Army marathon while I had the embryo implanted. It was so odd to walk out thinking "there could possibly be a baby in there!"

Next came the dreaded Two Week Wait. You have to wait two whole weeks to take the blood test to see if the IVF worked. All the while you are injected progesterone into your hip with an inch and a half long needle every. single. day. My whole midsection was sore and bruised from stomach and hip injections. But I kept praying and played worship music while I did my injections to try and keep my mind off of what I was doing. I didn't like to talk about IVF. The few people who knew would sometimes say "Oh you know it'll work!" To which I always thought "Well people always said nothing would ever happen to Jason so...." I couldn't let myself think that far ahead. I wanted so badly for this to work but I knew there was a very decent possibility it wouldn't.

The little Tamagotchi blob was our little baby girl.

And on November 21, 2014 Quinn Leona Gibson made her appearance. 7 lbs 11 oz, 19 inches long. She was tiny, adorable, and perfect.

Later on this month our little miracle will be six months old. Time has flown by!

And every shot, every pain, every colicky moment, every spit up and poop and pee, has been absolutely completely worth it.

This Mother's Day I am thankful to Quinn for changing me in a way that has made me better and stronger and more sure in my self. I am thankful to Jason for sticking by my crazy hormonal side and for trying his best to be a great father even with his disability. I am thankful for my family and friends, for their never ending prayer and love that I felt always surrounding me. And I am so thankful to God, for blessing me with this girl. He has been there for me in good and bad times and He has been the one constant when everything felt like chaos. Thank you Heavenly Father for making me a mother.

Abundant Blessings

This is one of the most exciting and long time coming posts I've written.

Jason and I are expecting our first baby in November!

We give all the glory to God and thank Him for blessing us with this baby. There are not enough words to describe how thankful and thrilled we are. To have this baby was a rough road and I hope one day to share the story of how we got here. Through trust and faith in the Lord we have made it through the trials. We are praying for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy happy baby.

Another exciting piece of news is that Homes For Our Troops has purchased land for us and we will be having a groundbreaking ceremony on June 7. If you are able to make it to Ohio for the ceremony all the info is here in this link. Usually homes are completed about six months from the ground breaking, so not too long after we have our baby we have a new home as well. Again, we thank God for this blessing and Homes For Our Troops for their service.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Place To Call Home + Update

Back when Jason was at Walter Reed, there was a certain thought that kept circulating in my head: where are we going to live once he's discharged? Before Jason deployed we had just moved into a rental home that we loved in a city that we loved even more. The house was perfect for us at the time, but it was two levels and all bathrooms and bedrooms were up a flight of stairs. After Jason was hurt, I knew we couldn't come back and it broke our hearts.

Stairs are not the only enemy of wheelchair users. Things like narrow doorways and hallways, reaching across stovetops, and unaccessible bathrooms are just a few of the many things that make finding an accessible home so difficult. Even in the house we are temporarily in now (while we are so thankful and grateful to live in) has many problems that still make me uncomfortable leaving Jason alone. And although we have made adjustments where we can, this is not a house we own and there is only so much we can do to a place that is temporary.

In my last post, I wrote briefly that we were waiting for the official acceptance into Homes For Our Troops, the organization that would be gifting us an accessible home. And I'm writing now to say we have been officially accepted. In the next year to year and a half we will have a home that we can call ours, one that Jason can live in completely independently. And while I'll always worry a little when he's alone, I'll be able to breathe a lot better knowing that he can access everything in the house that he needs.

The organization, Homes For Our Troops, has built over 100 homes since 2004 for wounded veterans. These homes are spectacular and well thought out for the life of the veteran. Not only is the charity a blessing, but the people behind it are some of the most incredible and caring people we've met. Soon our information and story will be on their website, but in the meantime please check them out, read the stories of the other veterans they have helped and consider donating. We plan on fundraising as well and will keep everyone informed. A huge, never ending thank you to Homes For Our Troops for giving us a place to call home.

October has been not too busy for Jason and me, which has been refreshing. Jason's handcycle arrived about a week before the Detroit Marathon, which Jason completed in 2 hours and 12 minutes. Not bad for someone who didn't get the bike the whole summer! And check out the impressive beard.

We also got the chance to go back to California for a few days to support another great organization, The Carrington Foundation. They held a golf tournament that also benefitted Tunnels to Towers, The Gary Sinese Foundation, and Veterans Airlift Command. We saw some old friends, met some new ones, and enjoyed the gorgeous weather before coming back to the Ohio cold.

Thank you to everyone who continues to follow our story and pray for us!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Overdue Update

It has been waaay too long since my last update and again I find myself apologising for the lack of updates. A lot has happened, so lets get to it!

Since the last update we've done a bit of traveling. We went to Washington for my best friend's wedding. Right after that we went to Mexico for a family vacation. This was our first international travel adventure and it wasn't as scary as we thought it would be (although it still was a little). We spent the week laying by the pool, getting a tan, and seeing beautiful sunsets like the one in the picture above.

At the very end of July we packed up our belongings, dog, and cat, and headed out to Ohio. It was extremely sad to leave San Diego. We've come to love the weather, the ocean (we had just learned how to surf before we left), and the people who had been taking care of Jason at Balboa Naval Medical Center. But we are now settled in Ohio and getting used to life in the midwest. I love Fall and cannot wait to have cooler weather again.

September 3rd marked Jason's official retirement date. Since he's been on terminal leave since June it doesn't feel much different, only now we have the VA to deal with but because he doesn't need medical care routinely we won't need their assistance with much for now.

A week ago we went to Boston to a conference for Homes For Our Troops. This wonderful organization builds homes for severely injured vets at no cost. These homes are custom made for disablement and we are awaiting our confirmation that we'll be getting a home. Usually it takes anywhere from one to two years to get a home built. We'll keep everyone updated as we go along in the process.

Mainly we have been trying to establish what a normal life means for us now. Jason is waiting on going back to school until we have our house built because we don't want to settle down in the area we are in now. He may get started on some internships or some online courses, but of course this is all up to him and in his own time. The reason for the lack of updates is also because, well, our life is pretty boring! There are only a few things coming up that are exciting, like Jason hopefully participating in the Detriot Marathon (I saw hopefully because we're still waiting on his bike to come).

My goal is to give an update once a month or every two months. There hasn't been much to update, but I hope everyone sees that as a good thing. As always, we have appreciated every single prayer that you have made for us. People are still surprised to see Jason doing so well after 16 months post injury, but those who know the Lord know that we shouldn't be surprised. We continue to seek Him everyday, in every big decision we make. And He has never led us astray. Thank you everyone for your continued support and love. Until next time! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One Year + Big Changes

May 30 marked the one year anniversary of Jason's accident. The day is referred to as Alive Day. Jason and I did not want this day to be sad, in fact no tears were shed. Alive Day is celebrate the accomplishments and how far he has come in a year. He has had over 20 surgeries, biked two marathons, skied all over the Park City, learned to golf, drives himself everywhere, grills for me (because I'm terrible at it), and still my funny, smart, sweet man. There are no words to describe how proud I am of him and proud I am to be called his wife.
On June 2, Jason hand cycled the San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon. He came in 7th out of 22 with a time of 2 hours and 9 minutes. He is due to be getting his own hand cycle soon and is planning on some more marathons and cycling events later this year.

The biggest change that has come about is Jason receiving the results of his medical board. He got his results much faster than any one anticipated, and because of this he will be medically retiring from the Army in a few months. This means that we will be moving out of the San Diego area and to Ohio until our house is built. We are both excited and ready to start our lives outside of the Army. We would appreciate any prayers for our upcoming move and transition.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Phantom Pains (And a Jason Update)

The above picture is one where Benny our cat is comforting Jason during a bought of phantom pains. If you know the love/hate saga between these two then you'll look at this picture as a miracle.

Yesterday and today Jason's had a bad case of phantom pains. I've decided to write about it because it is most likely going to happen to all who have had amputations. Before I go further I have to write a disclaimer that all the suggestions and advice I give is coming from me, a PTA student and exercise science grad. I am not a doctor or other medical professional (yet) so before you go and do anything I suggest please consult your medical professional that you seek care from.

So what are phantom pains? Its a sensory phenomenon where the amputee feels pain or sensation coming from the amputation site. The sensations can be anywhere from feeling the limb is there (and that it's behaving normally) or feeling pain, tingling, heat, cramping, twitching, or that a part is moving. Jason typically feels like his knee is having intense muscle spasms, but of course he doesn't have his knees. It's a feeling that at the beginning really bothered him, the idea that something that isn't there is telling his brain that is it. He's come to terms with it better but it doesn't make it any less annoying.

Not every amputee has phantom pains but everyone I have talked to has experienced some sort of sensation. In fact in the beginning Jason didn't have any phantom pains but slowly he began to have sensations. Some things that we've found that triggers his pains are dehydration. When he tends to slack on drinking water that's when the pains return. Other times it's just random, like these past two days. He has been drinking bottle after bottle of water, but that's not helping. So what do we do when the pains come? Here are some things that we do and other suggestions that we've been given by his occupational and physical therapist.

-Jason does have pain medicine that he can take, but often time once it wears off the pains return and other times it goes away. There are specific drugs for neurological pain that can be prescribed. Jason was on these at Walter Reed but was slowly taken off them because he wasn't complaining of phantom pain.

-Heat and ice can be affective. Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I usually apply the pack for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Just remember to use lots of layers between the heat or ice pack and the skin.

-Tapping and rubbing the site of the amputation helps take away the pain as well. The tapping and rubbing sends signals back to the brain that the nerves end at the site of amputation and the signals no longer go down the limb. It can also be affective to have the amputee touch the area that he is feeling pain on another person. Again it's about training the brain. Once we were hanging out with another amputee and he got a pain in his ankle (he was a bilateral above the knee amputee) He reached for my ankle and started to scratch it and it helped his pain go away.

-Another way to train the brain is mirror therapy. Using a mirror to look at the end of the amputation sends signals to the brain that the limb is no longer there. This technique doesn't work for Jason, but I've seen it work for lots of other amputees.

Amputee Coalition ( is a great resource for pain management for amputees, and a good resource in general.

Phantom pains just plain suck. All Jason can do is wait it out or try some of the above techniques to make it go away. But it helps to have a cat to cuddle with too.

Jason Update!

For those that don't know Jason had his final surgery to reverse his colostomy several weeks ago. He was in the hospital for a week and had a wound vac on his incision and stoma site until this past Tuesday. He's healed pretty well but it's not fully closed so we are doing dressing changes at home for the next week. My hope is that next week they'll actually stitch close the wounds. Jason is dying to get back on his handcycle and go swimming too, but we gotta wait until he is all healed up. Other than the incision stuff and the phantom pains, he is doing great.

May 30 will be Jason's "Alive Day", the one year anniversary of his accident. We haven't really discussed what he wants to do on that way, but the next day is also his birthday. Any suggestions would always be appreciated (you can comment here or if you are a Facebook friend message me there).

A crazy thing that happened to me was getting to be apart of the starting nine for the Padres game on Military Spouse Appreciation day. I got to run out onto a position on the field, then meet a player and run back off field. I love baseball and this was a fun day for Jason and me.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Traveling with a Wheel Chair

The thought of flying with Jason’s disability gave us both anxiety at the beginning. We had read horror stories in the news of how people in wheel chairs had been mistreated, or wheel chairs being lost or broken. Losing or breaking Jason’s wheel chair would be detrimental. It was also the fear of the unknown. But we knew that we would have to travel sometime since we are both away from our families. However, with the help of the internet and a dear friend of mine whose husband is in a wheelchair, we have been able to have relatively smooth flights. Here are some tips that we have discovered that we hope can help others.
These are things that I’ve discovered traveling with a person who can independently transfer, has a mechanical wheel chair, and has no legs. I can’t speak for traveling with a motorized wheel chair or a person who can’t transfer independently, but I will link below websites that may have answers to those questions.
-Call the airline at least 24 hours in advance to let them know you’ll be traveling with a person in a wheel chair. They’ll ask what kind of assistance you will need, such as assistance to and from the gate, or an aisle chair. This lets the airline prepare as necessary.
-When you call it’s a good idea to let them know how you want to check the wheel chair. We have always checked the wheel chair at the gate, meaning that when Jason’s transferred to the aisle chair (I’ll talk about that in a minute) the chair gets put with the other baggage below the plane. This is the only way we have checked his chair and that’s the only way I’ll allow it because it minimizes the chance of it getting lost.
-Going through security isn’t too bad. There is a special aisle for people in wheel chairs off to the side. The person traveling still has to abide by security rules, such as the amount of liquids allowed, etc. They use the wand over Jason and do a pat down. While they do that, they will wipe down Jason’s chair with gloves to check for explosive residue. Once that gets the all clear (only takes a minute) he is good to go. It’s pretty simple and painless. Sometimes I get to go with him and sometime I have to go through the regular security line.
-When you are at the gate, check in at the desk and let them know you’ll need priority boarding as well as tags for checking the wheel chair.
-I haven’t read anything to the contrary, but medical equipment doesn’t count toward your carry on limit. This means cushions and wheel chair parts, as well as any other medical equipment you require. A great tip from my good friend was to carry an extra bag and use it to hold all the removable wheel chair parts. When you check the wheel chair, it is recommended to remove all the parts that could come off. For Jason’s chair this means the back rest, arm rests, tippy bars, cup holder, and cushion (his chair is a Transformer I swear) I can fit all the parts except the seat cushion in the bag I bring.
-In order to get down the very narrow aisle, you will have to transfer to an aisle chair. It’s basically “a seat on a dolly” according to Jason. It is small and has chest and lap straps to keep the person in. An airline employee will take the person down the aisle and to their seat.
-The seats on the airplane aren’t very comfortable and we always bring a cushion for Jason to sit on. Also be prepared to be the first on the plane, as well as the last off. We haven’t had to do layovers yet, but keep that in mind when flying that you may need more time in your layover to account for this.
-When you land, the wheel chair should be right where you get off the plane with other items like strollers and car seats.
Here is a special tip for wounded vets. There is a great charity called Veterans Airlift Command. Pilots who fly private plans donate their time and plane to fly wounded vets around the country. It doesn’t cost anything and they do this on their own dime. The picture at the top of the post is of us traveling via VAC.  You have to be able to get into the small planes and be flexible in your travel plans. We did this last Christmas and didn’t know our flight details until the day before and the day of. Regardless, it was a cool experience and you don’t have to deal with airport security and formalities. Here is their website
These are some other links for traveling with a disability:
This is a cool video that this lady did of her experience
I hope that this post helped to lesson anxieties. Once we did one flight, the rest have been smooth. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the airline or airport, and don’t let being in a wheel chair keep you from traveling! This summer we will be doing our first international trip and I’ll be posting about that experience when it happens.